For the past eight years, I’ve run experiments on myself and others to better understand what makes us come alive.
This has taken me on ultra-marathons, to the tops of mountains, the bowels of bookstores, around the world and in front of some pretty fascinating people on some very deep soul-searching. Finding passion and helping folks do work that embodies it has become a bit of an obsession of mine, and has turned up some interesting results.
It turns out passion is not as elusive as we think. Just like daily exercise leads to a more fit and healthy body, there are habits that lead to fire in your belly. If we are to cultivate such a lifestyle we must act accordingly.
1. Surround yourself with passionate people. This is the foundation. Most people don’t believe you can do work you love because they’re constantly around people who hate their jobs and don’t know what excites them. This has to change. Those around you have everything to do with your success and your belief of what’s possible. You’ll either rise up or sink down, depending on who’s next to you.
Passion is contagious. You must have an environment that embodies it. You need a support crew who believes what you believe. People who dream as big as you or bigger. Not only will they give you ideas, but they’ll condition the belief that doing what you love is the norm. They fuel our passion and make the unthinkable possible, even normal. You’ll begin to expect the same of yourself.
Look around you. Do the people you see inspire and motivate you? Are they doing epic things? Do they love their work? Learn how to make genuine connections with new people doing interesting things. Check craigslist, MeetUp, coffee shop bulletin boards, chambers of commerce, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Find people in your own town and online. Befriend them. Make them a part of your life. Get out on adventures together. Schedule a weekly dinner or drinks just to talk about what’s exciting. Environment is everything.
2. Create space. If you don’t give big ideas room, they’ll never show up. Purpose and passion are no different. Lack of space creates pressure — the ultimate killer of creativity. And nothing requires more creative juices than passion. Start small with five minutes each morning. Schedule downtime. Start walking to work instead of taking the bus. Don’t multitask. Get out in nature. Just be, let things flow and see what comes up. Give yourself permission to dream. Passion thrives in emptiness.
3. Help someone in a way only you can. We all have natural strengths and talents that can dramatically help those around us. What comes easy for you is no doubt challenging for others. We tend to take these for granted, often hardly noticing our own gifts, and rarely share them with others. Passion comes from using those on a routine basis. Ask yourself, What do people thank you for? What do people routinely ask for your help with? Most people’s passions help others in one way or another. Perhaps for you it’s knitting, teaching children math, cooking a good meal or leading a yoga class. Devote time each day to sharing your talents.
4. Keep a journal of what inspires and excites you. Let your thoughts run wild. Most importantly, keep a running list of what inspires you. Books, magazines, movies, people, products, music, stories, careers, everything. Most people have a brush with passion almost daily… unfortunately, we’re often too busy thinking of our 97-item to-do list to take in the education. Anytime something catches your eye or excites you, open up your journal and get it onto paper. Over the years you will have a running story of how you might enjoy spending your time.
5. Challenge the norm. Ask questions. Don’t take things as gospel just because that’s how they’ve always been done. Don’t aimlessly listen to those around you. Question everything you’ve been doing and are about to do, especially if you don’t enjoy it. Is it really what you want? Is it in line with who you are? Perhaps there’s a better way. There often is.
6. Scare yourself — Live outside your comfort zone. Passionate people thrive off uncertainty. If you aren’t doing things that give you a few goose bumps you’re either not learning, dying or bored out of your mind. None of which are good. Do something at least mildly uncomfortable daily. This could be as small as making a phone call or sharing your art with someone. Be vulnerable. There’s a pretty direct correlation between pushing limits and epic living.
7. Find the right reasons. If a passionate person gets fired, they brush it off and get excited about the opportunity the lost job must be presenting. You can’t control what happens but you can control your reaction to it. What challenges have come up today? How could you reframe them? The juiciest possibilities often have the best disguises. Notice them.
8. Learn something new. Become obsessed with learning everything you can find — new skills, approaches, ideas — you name it. If it interests you then it’s important enough to get in your brain. We have to fuel what excites us. Grab a magazine or book that interests you, and read a few pages on the way to work or before bed. Passionate people almost always have a book within reach. Ideas can be found anywhere. Start looking. Be a sponge.
9. Start a blog. Surprise, surprise, right? But blogs are much more powerful than most realize. They’re a simple way to explore and share the thoughts and beliefs you’re excited about and for people to immediately see and provide feedback. Don’t worry about whether you’ll make money from it or who will read it. That’s not the point. The point is to constantly fuel something that interests you.
For years, my wife has loved to cook vegetarian meals. Then last month she started a simple blog, and the most fascinating thing started to happen. Her cooking changed from something she simply did to something she eagerly shared and talked to others about. She suddenly had an audience to teach something she cared about. People started to thank her and cook her meals. Now she wants to do something more with it — maybe private cooking classes or a recipe book.
This would have never come if she hadn’t taken her interest to the next level. It didn’t have to be a blog. That just happens to be one of the easiest ways of doing it these days. Seriously — start a blog. It takes a few hours max. Write about what excites you and nothing else. Publish it for the world to see. Do it daily or weekly. Give your passion room to breathe. See what happens.
Your life’s an experiment
Everything you do, everything you try, everything that does or doesn’t work out, whether you like it or not, it’s all an experiment. It’s up to you to decide to learn from it. That’s the ultimate daily practice.
Test how you can help people. Test what excites you. Test what you like. Test what scares you. Realize that if you do what you’ve always done, your results are never going to change.
Living a life of purpose and passion is just that, a way of life. Those who wake up excited aren’t just the lucky ones — they condition themselves to experience and deserve it.
About the author: Scott Dinsmore is the founder of LiveYourLegend, where he writes and helps people discover passion & purpose and do work they love. This article was first published on July 27, 2011